04 Dec 2014
It’s that time of year where most of us wander about the wine aisle trying to find the right selection to pair with a meal we are hosting, to select as a gift for a friend or family member, or just serve as a simple cocktail to start off the holiday season. This list contains some classic wines and some unique selections, including
19 Nov 2014
Robert Frost once wrote, Two roads diverged in a wood/and I—
I took the one less traveled by/And that has made all the difference.
In this case, the wine road less traveled led me to Treasure Island where besides an old naval base and the location of the World’s Fair in the 1930’s there is not much afoot except fantastic views of San Francisco that await a snapshot from its next tourist. This island can be an oasis or wasteland whichever way you choose to see it, but several unique wineries have sprouted up making it their home here, including
As I prepare for my trip to Arizona, I ask myself two very critical questions? What should I pack and where can I locate great wine in the desert? Not water, but wine. So, I look in my handy Frommers guide and three towns are listed: Cottonwood, Jerome, and Sedona. These three magical, ghostly, and mystical places weren’t on my radar as prime wine tasting regions and I feel instantly aware of my lack of wine travels outside of California. I know where every Vortex site is in Sedona, even a Psychic center for New Age, but apparently I need a Frommers guide to tell me where wine grows in Arizona. Although, the vortex visits and red rock hikes yield some good feeling energy, my real enlightenment comes while passing through Jerome on our way back from Sedona.
At Passion Cellars, a small boutique winery at the start of town, Cody Burkett, Gentleman Adventurer (listed on his business card and very apropos), shares his extensive knowledge with us about Arizona wines. The first critical information that Cody points out to us is that people tend to think of Arizona as all flat desert when in fact most of the varietals being produced are in regions with elevations of more than 4000-5000 feet. The very hot days and cooler temps at night mimic regions such as Mendoza, Argentina or even places in Italy where wine has been produced for centuries with success in these extreme temperatures. With low water crops like grapes, a little more struggle yields a happy, plump grape. Makes sense.
From the wine tasting list we choose 5 different wines to sample. My favorites include the Syrah 417 which Cody describes as a “1950’s pinup model – rich, voluptuous and vivacious.” I’ll have to agree there. Most notably the rich flavors of blueberry and chocolate that are present are remarkable. Another favorite and unusual wine is a greek white varietal, 2011 Freitas Vineyard’s Malvasia Bianca which has a syrupy, silky texture and notes of melon, pear, and opens with a bouquet of florals. If your’e not an intense red drinker, then the Jerome Red is a wonderful Syrah blend that’s smooth and light. This is great with food or just sipping alone. And lastly, a spicy 2012 Black Hills Zinfandel that’s aromatic and filled with ripe flavors of plum and raspberry is memorable on the palette. The overall wine list is well balanced and each wine on the list has it’s own unique character, which I look for when reviewing wineries.
Next door, and part of the same tasting room,is Echo Canyon Wines. Tasting room attendant, Lundon Crow, introduces us to an eclectic collection of wines that are mostly 2003 vintages or older. The wine list here is a hit or miss depending on each pour, but my favorite is a 2003 Crop Circle Merlot (call for info) with great rich flavors of blueberry, coffee, spice, and a smooth finish. Being on this side of the tasting room is like going on a wine treasure hunt and pulling out some of the last great bottles from unknown places. And for this reason, I highly recommend a stop to both tasting rooms at Passion Cellars if you are driving through.
So finally, I can say I’ve tried Arizona wines and in fact, I even managed to smuggle two bottles home in my suitcase free and clear of any unfortunate breakage.
Happy Wine Adventures!
Where to Taste
417 Hull Ave.
Jerome, AZ 86331
08 May 2014
One of my favorite varietals, Pinot Noir’s flavor profile can range anywhere from soft and smoky to full and lush fruity wines. I like to call the many selections anywhere from the French barnyard Pinot to the California fruity Pinot. In tasting rooms across the country, people love drinking and saying the word “Pinot” because it exudes a sophistication more than other wines. In the movie,
30 Apr 2014
I have several ways of dealing with my selection. One that I often tell people is there are certain varietals you can pick by region that usually do not disappoint. For example, a Pinot Noir from Russian River, a Zinfandel from Dry Creek Valley, or Chateauneuf-du-Pape from just about any vineyard in France! Second is I analyze labels, but again this is time consuming. The best way is
It’s not often that I step into a tasting room and feel right at home. There are too many wineries that have become double c’s – corporate and cold. But that isn’t the case at Big Dog Vineyards in Milpitas where owners Sandy and Mark make their guests feel welcome with their charming tasting room and wonderful wines. This small, family run winery rests atop a 1200 foot scenic hillside next to their beautiful residence. A large courtyard patio overlooking a hillside of vines offers a great place to sit and have a glass of wine and relax.
We drive up to the winery to enjoy super bowl festivities and watch the San Francisco 49ers play. Though there are about 10-15 people in the tasting room and courtyard, the staff is extremely attentive from the moment we walk in. Dick, one of the tasting room managers, greets us for a tasting and reminds us to take our time sipping each wine. He is knowledgeable about the wine list and genuinely wants to hear our feedback. Mark sets up a big screen in the tasting room and Sandy prepares appetizers and snacks for guests, including very delicious teriyaki meatballs. I stop counting after the 10th meatball I pop into my mouth. I even enjoy some Cheetos with some Cabernet, which is a first for me! During half time, we stand outside and enjoy the views and sip wine next to tall heaters. It’s hard not to take photos as the sun starts to set and the soft light cascades over the vines.
The duo is modest about their wines, but the red wines are no joke and it’s evident how committed and passionate they are about wine-making. The Cabs are a must taste. Standouts are the 2006 and 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon – both with a sophisticated bouquet loaded with vanilla, spice, and dark berry flavors. Their Zinfandel Port Style Dessert Wine is also stellar and has a great balance of sweetness and flavor. Think of a field of plump blueberries.
The winery is open to the public the first full weekend of each month. A complete schedule is available on their website. If you want a warm, welcoming and peaceful wine tasting experience, Big Dog Vineyards is a great place to visit.
Big Dog Vineyards
4545 Felter Road
Milpitas, CA 95035
Cheetos and Cabernet – who would of thought?
16 Dec 2012
I enter the allegorie tasting room and can’t help but feel allegoric in my pursuit of some of the best of this small town’s Spanish varietals including a spicy Tempranillo. The tasting counter here is unlike any other on the main street of Murphy’s. It doubles as an art gallery and local artists display contemporary works as well as beautiful designed jewelry in cases. The tasting room attendants are friendly, informative, and passionate as if every bottle has it’s own narrative. Owen kindly helps us through the tasting list and out of the five wines we tasted
My favorite thing to do in the wine country: Wine Taste
My least favorite thing to do in the wine country: Wedding Venue Hunt
After several long weekends of hunting for wedding venues, my fiancé and I realized the mystique of the wine country ends once you say that you are hunting for a wedding location and all of a sudden cha-ching (insert cash register sound here) , dancing dollar signs suddenly appear over your head.
16 Oct 2011
On one Sunday afternoon while scouting wineries in the Temecula Wine Country, I found myself in an unlikely place–in a bathtub on a mountain top with a bottle of “Old Gus”. Shadow Mountain Winery is located about a half an hour drive outside the continuously growing Temecula Valley Wineries, but it’s worth the stop for its beautiful location and quality, affordable wines. Nestled at 3200 feet , the winery is located on a coastal mountain range in San Diego county.
28 Sep 2011
Wine does not have to be an extrodinary out of the way journey. It can be as simple as getting in your car and driving to the local grocery store. Let’s face it, on a weekly basis the average wine drinker doesn’t spend more than $10 on a bottle of wine. We call this “house wine” for a reason. House wine is like that old comfortable chair in the corner of your living room. It’s comfy and it’s home.
Recently, I took a trip to Trader Joes and spent half an hour explaining to this very nice wine staff person that I was looking for a Sicilian white wine I had bought there about a month ago. The wine was called Isola D’Oro and it was a fragrant white wine, which flavors I recalled so intensely. I remembered that the wine was about $9. He assured me that they did not carrry this wine and when I insisted I found it there, he called his manager over to assist me. I recounted the story to him and I told him that a very large yellow and black bird was on the label. He laughed and said, “Miss, we don’t carry any bottles with birds on them.” And he was right, I had the wrong store! It was another small market down the road called Bianchini’s. At that moment, I felt like a complete idiot. I was ranting on about this Sicilian white with a bird on it with so much excitement and here I was at the wrong store. But, the staff person made another suggestion for a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from Australia from a winery called Picton Bay. The wine he described as full of citrus and crisp flavors of apple and pear.
This experience reminded me of two things. One, that drinking too much wine makes you forget. It’s best to write down where you find good wine. And two, that your local grocery store is filled with great wine with knowledgeable people that are as willing to help as much a sommelier at a sophisticated restaurant.
If you are looking to explore the local grocery store wine aisle and not sure where to start, I suggest first that you try Trader Joes, because my experience is that their staff are always available to offer suggestions and they operate a little differently than the larger supermarket chains. That is not to stay that Albertson’s, Safeway, Lucky’s or other markets will not be good to try and offer less of a bargain.
When looking for a wine, often times people forget to read the back of the label. This is the easiest way to get a sense of what the flavors of the wine are, if it’s a heavy or light wine, and what it will pair best with. Finally, the best way to get to know a wine is to open it and try it. Be a little adventurous and try wines from other countries in the market aisle. New World Wines have come a long way and they are comparable to some of California’s best.
My wine find:
2007 Corbera Isola D’Oro $8.99 . Bianchini’s market or online.
Other Great Picks (Safeway, Trader Joes and other major grocery stores)
Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay
Peachy Canyon Zinfandel
Alexander Valley Vineyards Temptation Zin
Trader Joes Reserve Syrah
J. Lohr Cabernet Sauvignon